Probe into 1MDB heightens as more arrests expected

Malaysia, Singapore continue to exchange key info related to the billions suspected as having been swindled from 1MDB

By AZREEN HANI & MARK RAO / Pic By TMR File

The hunt for key personnel in the scandal-plagued 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) intensifies as Malaysia and Singapore continue to exchange key information related to the billions suspected as having been swindled from the wealth fund.

Singaporean authorities announced for the first time last Friday that following investigations, it had issued warrants of arrest between April and May 2016 for 37-year-old billionaire Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, and Tan Kim Loong.

“At Singapore’s request, Interpol published Red Notices in October 2016, for Jho Low and Tan, who are suspected to have committed offences in Singapore and cannot be located here,” Singaporean authorities comprising the Singapore Police Force, Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore said in a joint statement.

“All members of Interpol, including Malaysia, would have been aware of the Red Notices when they were published.”

An Interpol Red Notice is a request by a member country to locate and provisionally arrest a person based on a valid national arrest warrant.

The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) sought clarification from the Singaporean AGC last Thursday on whether the authority had requested for the Red Notice alert on Jho Low regarding his involvement with 1MDB.

“We have received media queries on the issuance of Interpol Red Notices. Singapore law enforcement and regulatory agencies have been actively investigating possible money-laundering and other offences pertaining to 1MDB-related fund flows starting in March 2015,” the statement read.

Jho Low recently came out to offer his assistance to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in the SRC International Sdn Bhd probe after the graft-buster put him on the most wanted list.

Besides him, MACC issued a warrant for SRC International director Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil Nik Othman Arif Kamil to assist in the investigation into SRC International.

Meanwhile, reports emerged last week that the Malaysian authorities are preparing to issue arrest warrants for former Goldman Sachs Group Inc banker Roger Ng and ex-1MDB CEO Datuk Shahrol Halmi.

Shahrol, when contacted by TMR, declined to comment on reports of his impending arrest and investigation. It is not known whether Shahrol, who was also Malaysia Petroleum Resources Corp Bhd (MPRC) president, is still with the agency established and operated under the Prime Minister’s Department.

MPRC declined to comment on Shahrol’s position following the latest developments.

Singaporean law enforcers also described a meeting with the Malaysian 1MDB task force led by Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail as “productive, with a fruitful exchange of information”.

The meeting was held at the invitation of the Singapore authorities and followed an earlier meeting with the task force last week in Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore, according to the statement, has been providing Malaysia information on 1MDB-related fund flows since March 2015, and this was acknowledged by Malaysia. “Both sides agreed to continue this cooperation,” it added.

“We have taken strong action against financial institutions and individuals who have broken laws within our jurisdiction in connection with 1MDB-related fund flows, including criminal charges and convictions, as well as large financial penalties.

“Investigations are continuing into several other individuals suspected of being involved in 1MDB-related offences in Singapore,” the authorities added.

In April 2016, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) stated that Shahrol was one of the key persons responsible for the mismanagement of 1MDB over his four-year tenure at the firm.

The standing committee under Parliament said Shahrol had defied specific orders from 1MDB’s directors and took actions contrary to instructions while overseeing a number of questionable transactions between March 2009 and March 2013.

It is believed that it was in this period that 1MDB’s debt ballooned.

Responding to the allegations leveled at him at the material time, Shahrol — who joined 1MDB in 2009 — said there had been no wrongdoing or illegal activity in 1MDB during his tenure.

After leaving 1MDB in 2013, Shahrol joined the Performance Management and Delivery Unit in March that same year.